Evidently I have committed Bible verses to memory for (what some would say) all the wrong reasons. It may pain the religious figures of my childhood to know I can recite entire passages from the Book of Revelation only because a certain pop star goddess used it in the opening act of her Re-Invention Tour. From the Song of Solomon comes another memorable verse and the title of Lillian Hellman’s play: “Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines: for our vines have tender grapes.” This is my religion.
I’m tickled pink when someone recommends an old film I never seen. As anticipated, my movie queue is extensively extensive, and I’m unable to get to everything as soon as I’d like. Yes, the line is long, time is precious, and I have only television, so I decided long ago to ignore the “I can’t believe you haven’t seen that” jabs that accompany recommendations from time to time. Those of us whose paychecks force us to choose between two discs at a time and that necessary bottle of rosé often settle for a one-disc-one-bottle combination. Some companies have yoga studios and mediation rooms; mine took away our Kleenex to cut costs. Money isn’t everything . . . but I’ve always been lucky, and I’ll be lucky again.
Since I’m unable to get to everything right away, suggestions are always appreciated. When multiple people recommend the same movie to me in a matter of weeks, I make it a point to listen. From three separate corners of my life, endorsements were sent for The Shop around the Corner (1940), but I imagine the Christmas season had something to do with these coinciding recommendations. A cute one, yes, and Jimmy Stewart’s voice has a soothing quality that should be bottled and sold at day spas, but I’m not prepared to place this one of my list of favorites.
I’m tickled a brighter shade of pink when someone recommends an old movie that I happen to know and love. There’s a specific level of excitement that I can hear in a voice, an email, or yes, even a text message that reminds me of why I choose to write what I write – to me, the shared love of a film can allow people who live far from one another enjoy something of a shared experience. A recent email with the subject line of “The Little Foxes with Bette Davis” did just that. The story of a greedy trio of siblings who would never settle for one disc at a time is led by Miss Davis in one of her tremendously nasty roles. Nominated for nine Oscars but winning not a single one, The Little Foxes (1941) has been with me since the early stages of my growing film addiction.
Adapted from Hellman’s original stage play starring Tallulah Bankhead, The Little Foxes follows Regina Hubbard (Davis) and her two brothers in their conniving schemes to open a cotton mill by any means necessary. Born into a time period when men were the only true heirs to fortune, Regina must rely on the dollars of her husband, a man of poor health whose death would be highly profitable for the Hubbard siblings. A fierce, difficult, and perhaps misunderstood woman fighting for success in a man’s world? Well, I guess Bette Davis could pull it off . . . at one point she turns to the group of people in her living room and bellows without a question mark, “Why don’t you all go home. Good night!” My hero.
The success of films today seem to rely on the gossip and controversies that surround it, so once again, Bette Davis proves to be ahead of her time. Any time I present rumors, I present them as nothing more, for we will never truly know which cast member or director walked off the set, for how long they were gone, and what it took to get them back. It’s reported that, despite a good working relationship on previous films, Bette Davis and director William Wyler argued constantly during production. According to some sources, Davis provided Regina with an evil ruthlessness that was not present in Tallulah Bankhead’s stage portrayal of a victimized woman swallowed by the greed of her male relatives.
There’s more than one way to skin a fox, and Bette Davis’s Regina manages just fine with the raise of an eyebrow.